Cable Congress 2018: FCC implored to rein in technology titans | Cable | News | Rapid TV News
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The iron grip that Silicon Valley technology giants have taken on the digital economy needs to be loosened by tighter regulation, Michael Powell, president and CEO of the NCTA warned delegates at Cable Congress 2018.

Taking advantage of the keynote at day one of the conference, Powell not only slammed the technology giants for the weight they carried in the digital economy and but also criticised US regulator the FCC for not appreciating what he said were the real issues regarding net neutrality.

Setting the scene for his address, Powell said that the industry needed a regulatory framework that nurtures healthy internet growth. Yet and for what he said was all the fire and fury, he noted that the net neutrality debate was becoming increasingly irrelevant and predicted that however it is resolved will have little real-world impact. "Some would have you believe the net neutrality battle is the war to end all wars. They are wrong. While we are mired in a squabble [about] technology.... the world moves on. Net neutrality does not remotely begin to address the issue that companies face today and in the future."

Powell said that fundamentally the internet benefited society when it was free and open, running on a network where the intelligence did not rest with a telephone company or a government. Yet he added that net neutrality was rooted at present in engineering, business models and activity and was not addressing, nor protecting customers' needs.

For the latter point, Powell aimed both barrels at US regulator the FCC for its actions in defining net neutrality. "The US has a disputing lack of imagination," he remarked. "The FCC looked backwards for a legal framework. It is said that it has landed on industrial era laws to apply to a disappearing phone network for digital age. It is predicated on the wrong technology assumptions and won't function well over time if applied to networks. Laws work too slowly and the Internet changes too quickly. Policy makers need to pivot and craft a contemporary regulatory framework that addresses a growing list of concerns that truly impacts citizens. These laws apply only to carriers and tech companies. The limits of old rules mean that consumers are left with little recourse."

And it was with regard to the technology giants that the NCTA chief advanced his most grave concerns. He warned that the now modern-day customer of data collection was manipulating actions rather than servicing people's desires and that the new network neutrality rules were intended to retain this current 'asymmetric' regulation. "There are plenty of rules for infrastructure companies and not for computer companies," he asserted.

This was all leading to an imbalance. He added: "The technology titans now don't compete in the market; increasingly they are the market." As a redress, Powell called on the regulator to end what he called its "backward looking heavy handed experiment," and to prevent what he regarded as totally feasible situations whereby deals that allow dominant companies could "kill promising technologies in the cradle."